Standing ovation at Hallé premiere of Davis’s new work

The Last Train to Tomorrow, Carl Davis’s new 40-minute work commissioned by the Hallé for the Hallé’s virtuoso Children’s Choir, was premiered in June. Set to a text by celebrated children’s author Haiwyn Oram, the piece explores the poignant story of the Kindertransport which took place between 1938 and 1939,  and which saw over 10,000 Jewish children brought to England by train from Berlin, Vienna, and Prague. Davis’ sensitive, moving piece brought the Manchester audience to its feet.
The work presents ten new songs by Davis, linked by first person narration. Musically, it is influenced by the children’s own Austro-German backgrounds, as Davis explains:
"I wanted to emphasise the fact that the children came from somewhere. Many of the children came from central Europe's cultural elite, and the music they would have known was that of the great Austro-German tradition. So I asked myself, 'What if Schubert had written this? How would he evoke this remarkable journey from darkness to light?' In fact, the work is structured rather like a Schubert song cycle."


‘a standing ovation from the entire hall is a rare experience’
‘a powerful and hypnotic evening that moved its audience to tears.’
‘… in years to come, I’ll enjoy being able to say I was present at the premiere.’

‘To see the world premiere of a new work greeted by a standing ovation from the entire hall is a rare experience… But they hit on something very special when they asked Carl Davis to write a 40-minute work for the Hallé Children’s Choir and Hallé Orchestra. And he is a master at delivering effective, appealing music that fits its specification precisely.’
Manchester Evening News (Robert Beale), 19 June, 2012

‘In a sequence of 10 songs, punctuated at regular intervals by short scenes from the journey played out by six young actors, Davis presents the story in narrative form, capturing a sense of movement as the train passes through Germany, crosses the Dutch border, where the children begin to feel free and loved again, on its way to the port… Davis’s music reflects the emotions, light strings turning dark and threatening. A Viennese waltz echoes as if in a dream… a powerful and hypnotic evening that moved its audience to tears.’
The Arts Desk (Philip Radcliffe), 18 June 2012

‘The horrors of the Second World War led a number of composers to create some of their finest, most heartfelt work. Britten's War Requiem, Martinu's Memorial to Lidice and Penderecki's apocalyptic Threnody to the Victims of Hiroshima are just a few of the pieces that bear testimony to the brutality of that unprecedented total conflict. But there is a story that until now has remained musically untold: the remarkable episode of the so-called Kindertransport… The centrepiece of the event, however, is undoubtedly Last Train to Tomorrow, a piece Davis modestly hopes "will have some good tunes". But perhaps we can hope for more. Perhaps, in the words of the Holocaust historian Sarah Moskovitz, the work will, like the Kindertransport itself, "wring something life-affirming and productive from massive death and endless evil".’
The Guardian (Anthony Bateman), 15 June 2012

‘The choir sang beautifully and with feeling, with the odd solo bringing the attention to individual children and what happened to them… what the children sang and the actors acted out was so strong and touching… Not only was this a fantastic new piece and a great performance, more than deserving of honest applause, but the audience had the good taste and sense to know that it required a standing ovation. This went on for some time… I’d like to think that in years to come, I’ll enjoy being able to say I was present at the premiere.’, 17 June 2012